Until a few months ago, I spent all of my time in a print shop. To be specific, it was a letterpress and screen-printing shop, where we still mixed inks by hand, set type, etched metal plates with acid and carved wooden blocks. We printed most of our work one sheet of paper at a time, or on 70-year-old automatic presses that required constant attention and mechanical adjustment. It was one of those jobs that people would talk to me about all the time. “I had an uncle who worked on old presses,” or “I did a little printing when I was in college,” were common things to hear in a conversation about the shop. People understood the basics of running a print shop and making prints.
I eventually came to the conclusion that printing wasn’t what I wanted to do. The daily requirements of the job just became boring. When I finally decided to move on, I became a web developer here at Atomicdust.
When it comes to talking about my job now, the situation is very different. The questions I am asked now are, “What’s a developer?” or “So, wait, what do you actually do?” I figured out pretty quickly that when people ask this, they are not asking about coding. If I start telling them about that part of the job, they get bored really fast.
They want to know what is at the core of my job. Essentially, what makes someone a good developer?
For me, the truest answer to these questions is, “The job I do now is exactly the same one I did in the print shop.” The core of my job is to find the most elegant and efficient way to bring a project from design to final product.
In the print shop, the problem was how to create a perfect set of final prints. I chose the proper paper, set the pressure, adjusted the presses and mixed ink so that the final prints would reinforce the concept and look of the design. If I chose the wrong paper, perhaps a handmade paper when a machine-made paper would be more appropriate, the final prints would look completely wrong. The prints might look rustic and varied instead of slick and precise, undermining the original design.
Now, as a developer, my problem is how to create a perfect website. I choose the proper coding methods and languages, set up the framework for the site and style it so that when it goes live, its function reinforces the concept and look the designers have created. If I choose the wrong framework, it may be too difficult to update or impossible to incorporate social media. If the concepts behind the design are speed and adaptability, the chosen framework will undermine the entire project.
Although the specifics have changed, the backbone of each job is the same: creative problem-solving that serves concept and design. What makes someone good at each is the ability to see a project from design to final product without losing any of the importance of the design, but instead, reinforcing it.
- - -
Steven Brien graduated from Washington University in St. Louis with a BFA in printmaking and shortly thereafter founded All Along Press with his fiancée, Elysia. Steven and Elysia still do custom letterpress and printmaking, but Steven scratches his web development itch at Atomicdust.
When he’s not pedaling around St. Louis, making websites or print pieces, Steven can be found working on mopeds, building robots and tapping into his New Orleans roots.
Probably one of the most important things I learned in design school, and subsequently in the working world, is that “liking” a design is not sufficient enough. That’s what separates art and design; art is subjective, design is communicative. It’s also, like Atomicdust Creative Director Mike Spakowski often says, disposable. Design always has new trends and technology always has new devices. The only thing that seems to have any longevity is the content behind them.
It makes sense then to design around the message. After all, the purpose of any design is to remove obstacles and make it easier for people to understand a specific message. I am as guilty as any designer when it comes to getting swept up in the romance of making something look cool, but here are some things that help me keep a focus on the real purpose of what I’m making:
1. Understand What You’re Trying to Say
It’s surprisingly difficult to communicate something, when you don’t know what that something is. It’s your job to be a translator of sorts, explaining broad ideas and feelings in simple visual terms so you should probably know what those broad ideas and feelings are.
2. Focus Group of One
Chances are the people you are talking to are actually people. And what luck, you’re a person too. Test your design on yourself. Would you really read that chunk of text in the corner? Does that button actually make you want to click it? Does this piece of marketing accurately communicate the right message?
3. Be as Genuine as You Can
There’s a lot of marketing in the world and we’re bombarded with it every day. Subsequently we’re starting to automatically rate things as believable or unbelievable and that determines to what we’ll give the time of day. Avoid making outrageous claims, or implying that stock image perfection is exactly what you’re selling. Where does your design piece rank on the believable scale?
4. Now, Make it Cool
You’ve got the basics of the message, it’s a functional piece, and your tone is believable. Here’s your chance to flex (within reason) your design skills. Half the fun of being a designer is creating something that communicates a message and makes people say, “I really like it.”
- - -
Beth Porter joined Atomicdust as a design intern in 2011 and has been designing there ever since.
In 20 words or less, what's your creative philosophy? What a great question that surely would generate some very creative responses. The SF Egotist first took to asking San Francisco based creatives that very question, the response was a wonderful glimpse into the thought process of some very talented creatives.
We decided to take the very same question to Toronto creatives, in 20 words or less, what's your creative philosophy? What they shared gives us a look into the thought process of some extremely talented individuals. Take a look - tell us what you think and if you have a creative philosophy of your own share it in the comments.
"Love what you sell.
Then be honest with yourself about
the human emotion why you love it (greed, lust, etc). " - Kevin Drew Davis
Chief Creative Officer at DDB Canada,
Jared Dunten is a lot of things. Copywriter. Artist. Father. Husband. Paraplegic. Fighter. That last one probably should have come first.
In 2000, Jared dove into the Rio Grande, on the Texas/Mexico border. He woke up days later in a hospital 400 miles away. He’d broken his neck and injured his spinal cord.
Doctors said he’d be lucky to breathe on his own again. Walking? Best to forget about that. But the doctors underestimated him.
In the 13 years since the accident, Jared has been fighting his way back, starting with breathing on his own. Then months of rehabilitation. He returned to Austin, resumed his job as a copywriter at GSD&M. Became an accomplished painter using only his mouth. Got married. Had twins.
All the while he’s been fighting paralysis, and fighting the notion that he and others with spinal chord injuries will never walk again.
He’s become an advocate and activist by doing what he knows best – building brands – taking the skills he learned in the advertising world and applying them to his fight. He started with Will Walk www.willwalk.org, a foundation which uses art and film to create awareness about paralysis.
And he’s not doing it alone. He’s pulling in people from other areas of the industry to help him create and promote this “brand.” The Butler Bros., Marty and Adam, are longtime friends of Jared. They both had large-agency gigs but left ten years ago to explore more innovative ways to tell brand stories. www.thebutlerbros.com
They’ve applied their unique approach to a film that uses Jared’s story to encourage people to be more vocal about spinal injury research. See the trailer here: http://bbros.co/willwalk
I hear the word “strategy” thrown on just about everything. Like rhinestones on a South-Texas-prom-queen’s dress, “strategy” is too often a cheap and easy bedazzle on everything from PowerPoint slides, to someone’s superfluous commentary in a meeting that is already running too long with too many attendees. Anymore, in my day-to-day, Strategy is quite the loose little buzzword.
Often, it is a noun, as in “brand strategy” or “I am a strategist." Sometimes it is an adjective, as in “strategic vision” or “strategic insights." Also, as an adverb, such as “strategically developed” or “strategically placed.” And let's not forget it as a verb, as in “strategize” (which for the record, makes me want to punch the speaker in the nose every time I hear it).
And that isn’t to say that I don’t use the word often myself. But I used to accept the word at what I believed was its face value — a sense of something great and purposeful. A sense that when I heard “strategy” — I knew we were talking about the key to winning whatever was at stake, the secret sauce critical to achieving the mission. I knew we’d be talking about something tangible, and most importantly — something actionable. (Strategy is, by definition, a military term that, in a nutshell, means using your brains and your guts to not only stack the odds in your favor, but empower you to make the right decisions when confronted with any obstacle.)
Now, given the bedazzling trend, I’ve made it my personal charge to pay much closer attention when the word “strategy” is presented. Analyzing it quietly in my head, from every angle. Challenging my own application of it constantly. Because the real disturbing trend, is not that the word gets overused, but rather that the very concept of strategy has become a crutch. A well disguised excuse NOT to act. An exercise in lengthy requirements-gathering to plan for problems and scenarios that don’t yet exist. A perceived need to create a long list of tasks for what should happen in the future, when instead we should be driving for real feedback via iterative launches in the present. I see terms like “strategic goals” and “strategic vision” plastered across PowerPoint slides, and the actual bullet points associated with most of these goals and visions, amount to little more than minute tactics positioned as passive options to explore. Presented in the context of “we are working on,” or “working toward,” or “think there is great opportunity within this area.”
And with that lack of conviction, certainty, drive — fucking nothing can be won. It’s all a lot of bling with very little bang.
So here is what I'm really driving at — let's all of us in the industry be more thoughtful with strategy. That when creating, executing, presenting or thinking about strategy in any context, let’s be critical of ourselves, of our interpretation of strategy and when/how/why it matters or is applied. As an example, do we sometimes create formality where it isn’t warranted — like laboring over a “social media strategy,” when maybe all we really need is to just be social? Or when our strategy feels like it is a moving target, and people struggle with how to articulate it — should we check our premises? Are there assumptions at play that have been driving a weak, obtuse strategy? And if the goals are ill-defined, then no amount of “strategic planning” is going to get us anywhere, even if we wrap that anemic goal in a shiny label called “strategic vision.”
Diamonds are a girl's best friend for a reason — because they have real value. The real, lasts-for-a-100-years-and-cut-glass kind of value. Fortunately, making sure your strategy has actual value is really pretty simple — just ask yourself, is your strategy something your team can:
• Articulate without a slide in front of them?
• Apply in any given situation?
• Execute against to deliver desired results?
• Feel empowered and confident in so doing?
Here is an excerpt from "5 Paths To Doing Great Work At A Terrible Company." an article originally published on FastCo Design. We've had to take down this post in its entirety. Read the full thing here - we promise its worth the click-through.
Here are his five steps:
"1. WORK AS IF YOU LIVE IN THE EARLY DAYS OF A BETTER COMPANY
2. GOOD COMPANIES AREN’T MORE TALENTED. THEY’RE MORE TENACIOUS
3. “THIS SH*T DOESN’T HAPPEN AT DRO5A”
5. YOUR BEST OPPORTUNITY IS SITTING IN FRONT OF YOU"
Want to watch $275 Million get spent in 48 minutes? Just tune into CBS at 6:30 p.m. on Sunday to see one of America's greatest primetime displays of violence, debauchery and poor impulse control. And I'm not talking about the Super Bowl…
I'm talking about the Super Bowl ads.
In all seriousness, these days it's no surprise that independent research year after year continues to show that over half of U.S adult viewers plan to watch the Super Bowl as much, or more, for the ads than for the game itself. In fact, social listening measurement findings suggested that in 2012 64% of respondents said that half or more of their conversations online with respect to the Super Bowl were about the commercials themselves.
With the average investment of $4 Million on the line for a 30-second spot, it's no wonder why the CMOs of many of these advertisers are looking to squeeze their investment for every penny.
There are three standout trends that have continued to proliferate the Super Bowl ad space for the last several years (and by all accounts will continue even more in 2013).
01. Online Ad Preview and Teasers
Online Ad Previews and Teasers are becoming more of the norm. VW made the most famous splash last year with its Star Wars parodies that received over 56 Million hits after allwas said and done, largely in part to the pre-release of the spotson YouTube.
This year's early winner goes to the Kate Upton Mercedes spot, which in one week gained over 5 Million views (and counting).
Humbling news as, by this author's account, this is one of the more ridiculously off-brand spots I've ever seen. Given the fact that the CLA won't even be available for the next 7 months, the brand needs lasting impression and awareness. Regardless of the substance, it's clear that Mercedes knows the value of online traction and will do whatever it takes, no matter how low-brow, to get an early lead among its rivals.
Regarding the idea of Super Bowl teasers, the concept is simple,but the debate still rages on about whether or not the big reveal should be saved for the big game. While we don't promote a "one size fits all" approach to advertising, and I'm sure there are errors to the rule, it's hard to argue with the facts. Mashable reports, "According to YouTube's research, ads that ran online before the Super Bowl last year got 9 Million views, on average. Those that waited? 1.3 Million." With, on average, three times as many views online over broadcast, many could argue that the real winner in all of this is actually YouTube.
02. Ads for Social Democracy
Ads by social democracy are becoming more common in 2013. While Doritos pioneered the concept with their user-generated ads in the past few years, this year we are seeing a greater variety of the concept. For instance, one of the biggest brands in the world, Budweiser, has finally launched a Twitter account in itsname. The brand, which had a little more than 600 followers Monday morning, is using the account to promote its upcoming Super Bowl ad, which will feature a Clydesdale foal via their Twitter hashtag campaign. Pepsi is also using their site and Twitterto recruit some of their fans to strike a pose with their can before their half-time show.
But, the big pre-game winners in 2013 seem to be the "choose your own adventure" style ads from Audi and Coke. In what Audi says is a Super Bowl first, they recorded separate endings for their "Prom Night"commercial, and are compiling social votes where the audience chooses the ending. Coke created cokechase.comto tease their spots by highlighting three different sets of teams who are all racing to win a giant coke in the desert. The team with the most votes online will get their spot aired right after the game.
03. Second Screen
This year, more viewers than ever will be watching on a second screen. Now in real-time, technology allows brands to engage with the viewing public on their mobile phone or tablet during the event. For instance, Yahoo's Into_Now pioneered app technology that augments the second screen experience by using the unique audio digital signature in a television show topickup, and serve up, content directly related to that show. CBS estimates ad revenue alone from their second screen engagement to be between $10-$12 Million. Being able to interact with stats,player bios, team formations, highlights and social aspects is an essential part of any second screen approach for the sports enthusiast.
Regardless of all of the hype, a few certainties remain. The Super Bowl represents one of the highest risk: reward ratios in advertising. Because of this, marketers are getting smarter by using not only the right tools, but also the right content to get the consumer's attention. Disintermediation is taking effect and the consumer is finally starting to see large-scale control of and connection with their favorite brands. As our society gets more social and mobile, so does the advertising.
Needless to say, as an advertiser, I am thankful for the Super Bowl. If not for any other time during the year - the Super Bowl gives us an annual magnified window into the progress of advertising. With so much attention to the commercials, it almost makes me feel sorry for the guys on the field.
Yesterday a reader asked us "how do you get into advertising?", our knee jerk reaction was to ship them off to the nearest ad school for a year or so.
Then they told us more about their experiences to date and what a fascinating life they had lived. And as all of us forget from time to time, education is just a base foundation, life is what moulds you into an interesting creative person, ultimately making you more employable than the next guy or gal.
This trending video from Mondo Endruo below seemed an appropriate fit for this editorial.
Is creativity merely an algorithm? Can a machine do that thing that not even strategists can realistically explain with a set formulaic definition? I've actually seen it defined with whimsical hand movements placed mid-sentence.
BETC Euro RSCG Worldwide, creators of the Creative Artificial Intelligence (CAI) technology, determined the software is only so clever. It's built with existing creative connections. Thankfully, enlightened humans are still superior. CAI was an experiment to demonstrate just that.
...But don't let your guard down quite yet. That's rule number one in advertising survival.
1. The moment you get comfortable and complacent is the moment you become obsolete. Think about it. If your "character" is not contributing to the main plot, you are potential prey. (Especially if you go off on your own, mock someone on the team, or live in Maine.)
2. The junior creatives are always right behind you. Always. They're hungry and they don't sleep. (Encourage them and let them inspire you. Seriously, you really don't want them turning on you.)
3. Anything you think you know about advertising you probably don't. The rules are always changing. Go with it. Arm yourself with current knowledge and collaborate with other creatives. (Whatever you do, do not take that shortcut you heard about from one of the locals. It never ends well.)
4. If an idea is dead, don't assume it's going to stay dead. An ambitious idea always has one last shot at reality. Theoretically, it could resurface at any time – with more power. Ideas love to avenge their own deaths. And, idea sequels are always in the works. (If the idea has access to a hockey mask get the hell out of there.)
5. Do not try to unmask creativity. It shows up where it wants, when it wants. It's everywhere and nowhere. It laughs maniacally and probably hangs out in a sweet lair during it's downtime. Whatever it is, it's certainly not a single software program. (Sooner or later, in a shocking orchestra-crescendoed plot twist, you'll realize it was actually you all along.)
Advertising enthusiast, idea-driven creative, relentless pursuer of insight Jennifer Hohn is a Senior Art Director at Vladimir Jones in Denver. This piece is cross-posted from Jennifer's blog.
But – and it’s a very important but – you have to do them because they not only provide the framework and inspiration for creative teams to start creating their magic, but they become a piece of historical reference on the brand that ensures people won’t post rationalise the execution and miss out all the little bits that made all the difference.
That said, the debate of what should and shouldn’t go in a brief still rages and I find that sad because at the end of the day:
+ You should never be a slave to the briefing format, the briefing format should always be a slave to you.
+ Different people like different levels of information so a ‘one size fits all’ mentality, is totally and utterly ridiculous.
+ A short brief shouldn’t be an excuse for ignoring the real issues that need to be addressed & conveyed.
+ A long brief shouldn’t be an excuse for not being clear, concise and interesting.
+ Regardless of what you are being asked to do, a brief should always be interesting, informative & inspiring.
Because of this, we have a few different briefing ‘formats’ here.
Some are designed for more junior guys to ensure they’ve done all the critical thinking necessary … some are designed for clients to ensure they give us what they need, rather than what they want … but all cover 6 critical questions.
1. WHAT IS THE GOAL
What is the end objective? I don’t mean the execution but the business result.
In short, if they say, “We want some TVC’s”, ask why and don’t stop till you get some real reasons with some real quantifiable goals.
2. WHAT IS THE BARRIER
What are the key issue/s that are stopping this from happening right now.
It might be people’s attitude and behaviour … it might be a competitors product or distribution.
Maybe it’s an issue with our brand or communication or even a product quality or lack of innovation story.
Whatever it is, find the fundamental issue and write it down.
3. WHO DO WE NEED TO TALK TO, TO CHANGE THIS?
Who do we need to engage in conversation? Who do we need to inspire, inform, push?
Don’t just write a bunch of stats or bland statements, explain how they think, live, worry, behave.
Let people feel the person not just read a bunch of cold, clinical bullet points.
4. WHY WILL THEY CARE
This is where blunt honesty is needed.
You can’t write this from the perspective of what the brand wants them to think, it has to come from the audiences mindset. If you’ve done your homework for the previous question, you’ll know the answer to this … and if you’ve done your homework well, you’ll know the answer is not going to be some marketing hype/bollocks, but something that satisfies a real need in their life – be it emotional, physical or mental.
5. SO WHAT’S OUR STRATEGY?
Detail the macro approach you are taking to achieve this brief. It should be short, precise and full of creative mischief.
ie: Deposition the key competitors as ‘old success’ by making XXX the badge for ‘new, entrepreneurial achievers’ … or something.
6. WHAT’S THE KEY POINT OF VIEW
Based on the goal, the barrier, the audience and the strategy – what is the brands point of view on the issue they need to address.
It should be something that is obviously based on truth but also full of tension and pragmatism.
ie: “You can’t change tomorrow if you don’t act today” … or some other z-grade sounding Yoda impression.
Don’t rush it. Take your time to really craft it because apart from needing to be relevant to the task in hand, it also serves as the creative ‘jump off point’ and if you’re going to help your colleagues do something that is powerful and interesting with it, you’ve got to ensure they really feel the tension and energy of what they can play with or play off.
You might ask why things like ‘tone of voice’ are not mentioned.
Well sometimes they are … sometimes they’re not … it depends on a number of factors, however at W+K, we place great importance on ‘brand voice’ so a few abstract words like ‘fun, upbeat & lively’ are not really going to cut it.
I should point out that how you brief your colleagues is another incredibly important part of the creative process.
If you give them a piece of paper and tell them to “read this”, you’re almost doomed before it’s even had a chance to begin.
While the brief should be inspiring on it’s own merits, it’s always good to think of ways to let your colleagues really understand what you are trying to get across.
That might mean you present it in a different location or environment to the office … that might mean you put them in situations where they can really feel what you’re trying to convey … that might mean you get interesting – yet relevant – people in to chat to them before you go through your hard work, but whatever you do, it’s always worth putting in that extra little bit of effort because it will genuinely pay dividends to the work that comes out the other side and that is ultimately what you’re going to be judged on.
At the end of the day it’s worth remembering there is no such thing as a perfect creative brief because ultimately, it’s about what you put on it – or how you present it – rather than what it looks like … however what I can say is that from my experience, as long as you have a culturally provocative point of view running all the way through it [obviously based on truth rather than 'marketing truth'] then you stand a much greater chance of creating something that affects culture rather than just adds to the blunt, advertising noise.